AS the Frodsham area faces an extended period of cold and challenging weather conditions in the coming days, highways chiefs have moved up a gear to keep the road network running smoothly.
Temperatures as low as Minus 4 are forecast for Frodsham but, across Cheshire West and Chester, the borough council’s highways service and its maintenance contractor, Colas, are ready to tackle the coldest weather conditions
The fleet of 18 gritting trucks, including eight brand new vehicles, has been mobilised five times so far this winte, but this weekend will see the first extended cold spell.
The fleet keeps 490 miles of roads safe for drivers, using the 4,000 tonnes of rocksalt stored at the Guilden Sutton and Davenham depots to treat key routes across the borough.
Primary routes are gritted first which include A roads, other main roads and routes used by the emergency services. In periods of continued bad weather secondary routes are sometimes gritted when the primary network is fully treated and if resources are available.
Road surface temperature and whether the road is wet or dry determines what grit treatment is needed – not the air temperature. The grit spread on roads is actually rock salt, which mixes with any moisture to create a saline solution. Saline solutions freeze at a lower temperature than water, so frost and ice doesn’t form on the road.
On nights where frost or icy conditions are forecast, the fleet will spread salt to help prevent ice from forming across the council’s highway network. All gritters are equipped with GPS tracking to enable accurate monitoring of which roads have been treated.
Duty officers will mobilise the gritting fleet when it is predicted that road surface temperatures are to drop below freezing, allowing time for the salt to be applied to the road. Salting is normally completed within four hours and usually before 7am. The Highways teams maintain a close relationship with RoadMaster, who provide the weather forecasts.
The council’s cabinet member for environment, Cllr Karen Shore said: “When the fleet is mobilised it’s important that we grit within a specific time period which is why we target key roads. We can only grit so much of the network within a timeframe and we must concentrate our efforts on key routes that see the most use.
“Our crews are on standby 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The call to go out could come at any hour of the day or night and teams must be ready to respond immediately. I would like to take this opportunity to pass on my thanks to the entire team who make our gritting operation possible, particularly in the current challenging period.”
Salt bins are provided in specific locations for people to use during icy conditions. These are usually residential areas next to shopping areas, part way up hills with a slope over 10% or where there are special circumstances. You can ask for a top up for any current salt bins in your area on the Council’s website.
Footpaths and cycleways are gritted if snow or ice is likely to last for over 24 hours and if resources are available. Busy footpaths and ones with special circumstances are gritted first – like outside hospitals, footpaths around schools and in shopping areas.
More information about the council’s winter operations, including gritting routes, is on-line at: https://www.cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk/residents/transport-and-roads/highways/winter-gritting.aspx .